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Hungry chicks have unique calls to their parents

Date:
January 27, 2011
Source:
BioMed Central
Summary:
It can be hard to get noticed when you're a little chick in a big colony, but new research reveals that baby birds in need of a feed have individual ways of letting their parents know.

It can be hard to get noticed when you're a little chick in a big colony, but new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Ecology reveals that baby birds in need of a feed have individual ways of letting their parents know.

German and Swiss ornithologists studied the calls of chicks in a population of Jackson's golden-backed weaver birds on the shores of Lake Baringo in Kenya. Already knowing that parent birds can distinguish their own chicks from others by unique pattern changes in the frequency of their call, the researchers wondered how the parents could also tell if their own chick was hungry, and how hungry.

By temporarily removing chicks from their nests, the team set up cameras and microphones to record the chicks' behavior and begging calls. Lead researcher Hendrik Reers said, "Weaver bird chicks have two parts to their call; a "whistle-like" call followed by a "trill-like" call. In a non-hungry state, these parts of the call are slightly different from bird to bird,., and this allows the mother to identify their chicks. As the chicks get hungrier, as you might expect with any baby, the call gets louder and more energetic, but each bird still has a unique way of modifying their "normal" call to an "I'm hungry" call. These results imply that parents have to be familiar with their chicks' begging calls in order to estimate their hunger precisely."

The group found that the weaver bird chicks changed the length, pitch and amplitude of their begging calls, adding extra trills and shortening whistles. In fact, the hungrier a chick got, the more unique the call became. It seems that if you're a baby bird singing for your supper, the best way to make sure you get fed is to sing a different tune from everyone else!


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hendrik Reers and Alain Jacot. The effect of hunger on the acoustic individuality in begging calls of a colonially breeding weaver bird. BMC Ecology, (in press) [link]

Cite This Page:

BioMed Central. "Hungry chicks have unique calls to their parents." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110126081710.htm>.
BioMed Central. (2011, January 27). Hungry chicks have unique calls to their parents. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110126081710.htm
BioMed Central. "Hungry chicks have unique calls to their parents." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110126081710.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

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